International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

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Promoting the advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress is a core mission of ISTSS. Our online learning library contains video and audio recordings of conference presentations and recordings of past webinars.

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The Sanctuary Model: Creating and Sustaining Trauma-Responsive Organizational Cultures

Sandra Bloom, MD
Recorded on December 14, 2016
1.5 credits
WebinarAudio with synched slidesEligible for the Advanced Training Certificate Program

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What is the Sanctuary Model? The Sanctuary Model® represents a theory-based, trauma-informed, trauma-responsive, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture. The Sanctuary Model is the “toolbox” that holds together all of the evidence-based and practice-based approaches that help individuals, families, organizations, and communities to heal and recover. It acknowledges the current reality that most of our organizational settings and communities are chronically stressed, with all of the dysfunctional behaviors that are likely to unfold in a chronically stressed environment and that there are no quick fixes for the systemic deterioration that results.
It is a "model" because it is not a THING in and of itself - it is a set of interactive tools to change people's minds and the way we go about working together, thinking together, acting together, and living together. Whether or not Sanctuary "works" is entirely dependent on the ways in which groups of people implement and sustain trauma-informed knowledge, trauma-responsive policies, and within appropriate settings, are able to implement trauma-specific treatment.
Much of what constitutes the Sanctuary Model is not new, but has been developed and honed over the course of the last three decades and is grounded in several hundred years of accumulated wisdom. But just as the study of traumatic experience repeatedly becomes forgotten, so too does the knowledge about working in and with groups, despite the fact that collective, relational, integrated action is the only way human beings have been able to achieve anything over time.
The objective of organizational change is to more effectively provide a cohesive, innovative and creative context within which healing from psychological and social traumatic experience and adversity can be addressed - for all of us. As an organizational culture intervention, it is designed to facilitate the development of structures, processes, and behaviors on the part of staff, clients and the community-as-a-whole that can counteract the biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and moral wounds suffered by the victims of traumatic experience and extended exposure to adversity.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe what organizational culture is and why it matters to human service delivery systems.
  • Identify signs of chronic organizational stress.
  • Name and describe the four key pillars of the Sanctuary Model.


About the Instructor

Sandra Bloom, MD is a Board-Certified psychiatrist, graduate of Temple University School of Medicine and recipient of the Temple University School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award. Dr. Bloom currently serves as Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University and in 2016 received the Public Health Practice Award from her school. She is President of CommunityWorks, an organizational consulting firm committed to the development of nonviolent environments. Dr. Bloom is a Past-President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and presently co-chairs the ACEs Task Force for Philadelphia as well as the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, based in Washington, D.C. She is author or co-author of a series of books on the Sanctuary Model: Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2013); Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Delivery Service Systems (Oxford, 2010) and Restoring Sanctuary: A New Operating System for Trauma-Informed Systems of Care (Oxford, 2013).